Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.
Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.
You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.
They don’t. They make a podcast.
In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?
I wonder – if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?
I love Heartstopper by Alice Oseman and decided to check out more of her books, starting with Radio Silence. I listened to this on audiobook a few months ago and was struck by the realistic portrayal of the teenage characters. It’s narrated by Frances Janvier, an academic head girl whose goal is to go to Cambridge. Frances has cultivated a careful image of herself and none of her friends know her true personality. Frances is secretly a nerdy artist and fangirl of a sci-fi podcast called Universe City. She befriends the creator of Universe City, a shy boy called Aled Last. Together they navigate school, fandom and friendships.
This is one of the few books I’ve come across which features a platonic friendship between a boy and a girl. It was refreshing to read about and I would love more YA books like this, please! Frances and Aled’s relationship felt so genuine and the great thing is they stay friends. Another highlight was the diverse representation. Frances is biracial (Ethiopian and white), Daniel is Korean and Raine is Indian. Plus there are characters who are gay, bisexual, asexual and demisexual. I must admit that before reading this book, I didn’t know what demisexuality was. According to asexuality.org: “A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone”. Clearly this is something that needs more representation and the LGBTQIA+ aspects were handled well.
I saw a lot of my teenage self in Frances as she isn’t really sure what direction she wants to take in life. One of the themes of this book is academic pressure. Frances defines her self-worth through her grades which is something I think many young people can relate to. Both Frances and Aled experience anxiety because of the expectations placed upon them by society or their family. What I like about Radio Silence is that it dispels the notion that you have to get good grades and study at university in order to be successful in life. University isn’t for everyone and there are definitely other routes to take. The main message of the book is about staying true to who you are.
While this is a contemporary YA novel, I was surprised because it gets quite dark at times. Oseman isn’t afraid to explore the dark side of fandoms, specifically internet hate and trolls. The only niggle I had was the depiction of Aled’s mother who is portrayed as an unhinged villain. From the reviews I’ve read, everyone hates Carol, although I couldn’t help wondering why she acted the way she did. Maybe some backstory would have made her character appear more nuanced. But this was a minor point and it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.
An original YA novel about friendship and being true to yourself.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐